DATELINE: January 20, 2000
Tired of struggling with that round mouse? Try one of these USB alternatives.By Brett Larson
Bargain Basement: $30 and under
If you just need a quick replacement for that USB hockey puck that comes with the Mac, try one of these inexpensive, but functional models. They may be lacking in special features, but they feel like a conventional mouse.
The $15 Classic Mouse USB from Belkin Components (
www.belkin.com ) features three buttons that you can program under Microsoft Windows, but not on the Mac. Instead, you use it as a standard Mac mouse. The putty color scheme looks bland next to an iMac, and it works only in the right hand.
For $5 more, Belkin offers the Classic Mouse USB for iMac, a version of the Classic Mouse USB with an iMac-inspired Bondi Blue color scheme. However, like its putty-colored sibling, it’s designed for right-hand use only.
The $25 putty-colored Belkin Netmaster USB mouse, also designed for right-hand use, features a handy scrolling wheel — which works only with Windows 98.
The scroll wheel on the $25 XLR8 Point and Scroll Mouse from Interex (
www.interexinc.com ) actually works thanks to the included and easy-to-use Mac driver software; you can use the wheel to scroll through long documents or Web pages. The mouse features two programmable buttons, works with right or left hands, and comes in putty, black, and ice color schemes. You can also purchase the mouse in a $65 Performance Pack that includes a USB PCI card for older Macs.
The $26 two-button putty-colored Mouse in a Box USB Scroll from Kensington
www.kensington.com ) also features a functional scroll wheel thanks to software you can download from the Kensington Web site. It fits comfortably in either hand. You can program the second button to perform such actions as double-click, click and drag, and control-click.
The $30 CompuCable (
www.compucable.com ) iMouse features a Bondi Blue color scheme and should fit comfortably in most adult hands–right or left. The generous four-foot cord makes it ideal for use with CPUs that reside under a desk.
Featuring only one button, the $30 Macally (
www.macally.com ) iMouse is a simple replacement for your current round mouse. It’s a comfortable fit for right- or left-handers, but comes with a heavy price tag considering its limited features. The blue-and-ice color scheme matches Macally’s iKey keyboard.
Pretty Good Deals: $39-$50
These costlier mice offer extra buttons, swappable color schemes, unusual designs, and other goodies.
Featuring a blueberry color scheme, thee $39 iMouseJr. from Macally measures just two inches long and one inch wide, making it suitable for children; it could also come in handy when making PowerPoint presentations, using a laptop on an airplane, or for any other application that requires little mouse movement. It works with either hand and features two programmable buttons. However, considering its size, it’s a little pricey.
The futuristic $40 MouseWorks from Kensington has a unique shape, similar to a trackball. It’s slightly larger than an average mouse, but fits comfortably in the palm of an adult hand–right or left. It has four programmable buttons, plus a scroll wheel that doesn’t scroll, but can be programmed as a fifth button. The software, which you download from the Kensington Web site, is easy to use.
The iSweetnet is a three-button, $49 mouse from Macally which you can jacket in whatever color suits your mood (or your iMac)–you can even make it Graphite. Suitable for righties and lefties, it also includes a working scroll wheel.
Featuring three buttons plus a working scroll wheel, the $50 Mouseman Wheel mouse from Logitech (
www.logitech.com ) sports a high-tech look and easy-to-use software. It fits well in an adult hand, but it’s not designed for lefties.
High-Class Rodents: $55 and up
These mice offer premium features–with a price tag to match.
One of the coolest mice in our round-up was the IntelliMouse, a $55 number from Microsoft
www.microsoft.com/hardware ). The IntelliMouse uses the company’s Intellieye optical-tracking technology, letting you dispense with your mouse pad. It works on any surface, including a pant leg or desktop, and there’s no ball or other moving parts to clean. Physically it resembles a standard putty-colored mouse with two programmable buttons and a scroll wheel. It fits in either hand, but will feel more comfortable for righties. The software is easy to use. However, it’s also expensive considering the features you get.
Sporting more features than its lesser-priced sibling, the $79 silver-and-gray IntelliMouse Explorer from Microsoft looks like something from Captain Kirk’s desktop. Using the same Intellieye optical-tracking technology, the four-button mouse features a scroll wheel and easy-to-use software. A red light in the back glows when the mouse is plugged in. Definitely a must for any gadget lover–as long as you’re right-handed.
If you have limited desk space, consider one of these USB trackballs. They can be tricky to use if you’re accustomed to a mouse, but they’ll let you navigate the Mac desktop without taking up too much space on your real one. All of these will work in either hand.
The Orbit trackball from Kensington features two programmable buttons, easy-to-use software, and an affordable $30 price tag. The cursor moved too quickly under the default settings, but this was easy enough to fix in the Control Panel.
A bit larger than the Orbit, the $45 iBall from Macally features two buttons, but no software that lets you program them. It’s a comfortable fit and sports an attractive ice-and-blue color scheme.
The $60 Kensington TurboBall is our personal favorite among the trackballs we tested. It features four programmable buttons, plus a scroll wheel that doesn’t scroll but does works as a button. With a taller, thinner shape than you see in other trackballs, it fits comfortably in either hand.
The $99 Mouse-Trak Evolution from ITAC Systems (
www.mousetrak.com ) is large–about eight inches long by five inches wide–with a Zebra-like black-and-white color scheme. It features six buttons, which you program using rather clumsy controls on the device itself. The ball felt a little rough and, because it sits on metal bearings, it made a lot of noise. Considering the price tag, this one is hard to recommend.
With its rugged square design, the $99 ITAC Systems Industrial Mouse-Trak would be a good choice for garages, industrial facilities, and other harsh environments. The three buttons are pre-programmed and require no software. Like its sibling, Mouse-Trak Evolution, it’s noisy and feels a little rough.